Posted on: September 1, 2011 2:52 pm
Edited on: September 1, 2011 2:53 pm

McDowell plans Tiger flyover on way to Dubai

NORTON, Mass. -- Looks like it just got a little easier for Tiger Woods to win his annual year-ending tournament.

Assuming he qualifies for a spot.

Defending champion Graeme McDowell, who last fall at the Chevron World Challenge outdueled Woods is one of the most exciting finishes of the year, confirmed Thursday that it's going to be logistically impossible for him to return.

The Chevron event this year is set for Dec. 1-4, the week after McDowell will be paired with Irish teammate Rory McIlroy in the World Cup in China. The week after the Chevron event, staged in suburban Thousand Oaks, McDowell will play in the European Tour' season finale, the Race to Dubai event in the Middle East.

McDowell said he had already spoken with Chevron tournament officials and was hoping to speak to Woods personally before he formally backed out of defending, but hasn't seen Woods of late. Woods didn’t qualify for the current FedEx Cup series, which is staging its second leg this week at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

"I don’t see how I can do it, unless he wants to send me a jet," McDowell said.
From China to California to Dubai in a span of eight days would be hard for anybody to survive.

"The schedule is just so compressed this year," McDowell said. "Dubai, it's just too important a week for us. I am trying to play both tours. But with a Ryder Cup year coming, it's too important. I have to be ready to play when I get there."

The Chevron event, while unofficial, was one of four titles McDowell won in his transcendent 2010 season, including the U.S. Open.

The Dubai event has a $7.5 million purse, the richest European Tour event of the year. McDowell is 33rd in the Race to Dubai standings, otherwise known as the money list. To make the 2012 Ryder Cup team as an automatic pick, he needs to pick up as much in earnings as possible.

"I would love to play," he said. "It's not so much the week of Tiger's event that I am worrying about -- it's the week after [Dubai]."

As for Woods, he fell to No. 38 in the world ranking this week, and if he falls out of the top 50 while idle over the next three weeks, he won’t be eligible to play. In order to the Chevron to award world ranking points, each of the 18 players in the field must be ranked in the top 50 when the rankings are issued Sept. 19.

It's a longshot, however, that Woods will fall that fast, even though by Sept. 19 it will have been two years since his last PGA Tour win in Chicago.

Category: Golf
Posted on: July 13, 2011 8:02 am

Irish rise or not, Open in no rush to Portrush

SANDWICH, England -- Despite the incredible ascent of Irish golf, wherein three different sons have donned major-championship crowns since mid-2007, it appears unlikely that the British Open will be headed to the Emerald Isle soon, if ever.

There's certainly no rush to Royal Portrush, the famed Northern Ireland links that was the site of the only Open to be played outside England or Scotland, back in 1951. Though the Royal & Ancient Golf Club hasn’t announced any host venues beyond 2014 and thus is positioned to quickly return to the island while the game is enjoying unparalleled popularity, the same old hurdles were trotted out as potential deal-breakers.

But at least the possibility wasn't entirely dismissed.

"Obviously there's much emotion about Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy's victories and why don't we go back to Northern Ireland and perhaps Portrush in particular?" R&A chief executive Peter Dawson said Wednesday. "I understand that.

"You can't, however, base where you hold the Open on where players come from.  I think that should be obvious to anyone.  Portrush is a terrific golf course, may well be strong enough for an Open, but as we all know, there are other issues of infrastructure, accommodation, roads, what would the commercial success or otherwise of the championship be that need consideration."

Then start considering, already.

McDowell, an Ulsterman with lengthy ties to Portrush, senses that an Open on Irish soil would be a huge hit, though a test tournament might be a good idea first. He thinks an Open might also solidify the country, which has again been wracked by bombings and strife over the past few days.

"It should be back on the Open rota," said McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, this week. "It would be nice to bring a little peace in the nation, would be a good start to things. There's a bit too much unrest there still.

"It's an interesting one. Could the golf course handle the surface area of the grandstands, routing to get 40,000 people round it, merchandise tents, everything that goes with the modern British Open? Peter Dawson told me that Portrush doesn't have the surface area, but I don't know if that's an excuse."

Indeed, many Open courses over the years have been kicked from the rotation over those very issues -- but later reinstated. Carnoustie, Hoylake and Turnberry were all reinstated after roads or other host-course shortcomings were addressed.

"[I am] not ruling it out by any stretch of the imagination, but it would have to meet all those criteria, and I don't think it's something that's going to be in any way imminent," Dawson said. "It's certainly something we'll have a look at again in view of the success of the golfers from that part of the world."

Then by all means, boys, get to work.

Yet, even given the rise of Irish fortunes thanks to Padraig Harrington, McDowell and McIlroy, with a population of under 2 million in Northern Ireland, Dawson has reservations as to whether ticket sales could sustain the tournament. Officials are expecting perhaps 185,000 fans this week, the number that attended when Royal St. George's last hosted the Open in 2003.

The issues faced at each of the three aforementioned Scottish or English links were somewhat unique, and by nature, the seaside courses usually are not rich in roads and hotel options. Portrush certainly faces some of those issues, too. But they might be solvable, like with Carnoustie and the rest.

"At Hoylake it was actually lack of land at the golf course to accommodate everything we would need to put on the golf course," Dawson said. "At Royal Portrush there is the second course there, so there's not a land issue on-site.  It's more road access, quantity of hotels, what would the level of corporate support be? What would the crowd size be, things of that nature."

True, it's an awful small pond from which to draw in terms of population. Portrush is located between 90 minutes and two hours from Belfast.

"Yeah, we're obviously not immune to what people are saying, and it clearly would have a lot of local support," Dawson said.

If you sense a however coming, you nailed it.

"Whether the quantum of local support, while being very intense, would be sufficient in quantity to make it a successful championship is something that would need to be judged," he said.

McDowell is a local hero at Portrush, where he has logged plenty of rounds over the years.

"Given the last two British major wins came from Northern Ireland, I think we're in quite a strong position," he said. "First and foremost, we could do with a European Tour event going up there [first] -- the Irish Open would be a great start and then look at British Opens after that.

"It's about a lot of things. I'd be a huge supporter of it, but I'm pretty biased. I love that part of the world. The golf course is excellent, fantastic. That would be a dream, an achievable dream."

The 1951 Open at Portrush was won by England's Max Faulkner. For those who remain fuzzy on the particulars of governance in those parts, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and is thus considered "British." The Republic of Ireland is not.

As for its worthiness, Royal Portrush was ranked No. 5 by Golf Digest in a list of the best links tracks in Great Britain and Ireland.

McDowell said he'd be willing to make a big personal sacrifice to bring the Open to Ulster, too.

"I would have to give up my parking spot," he laughed. "But it would be worth it."

Posted on: June 16, 2011 4:55 pm

McDowell forks over trophy, wants to win it back

BETHESDA, Md. -- He said it's like a weight has been removed from his shoulders.

Not to mention what it's done for the reduction of weight in his luggage on road trips.

After making several trips abroad with Graeme McDowell over the past 12 months, the Northern Irishman two weeks ago had to return the championship triophy he won for claiming the U.S. Open last summer.

His tenure as the national champ ended this week, and in a way, it was marked by a sigh of relief. No offense, but McDowell said he's spent months talking about his 2010 season, possibly to the detriment of his current campaign.

The metal case has been returned to the host USGA. McDowell is now looking forward to adding more major-championship chrome.

McDowell, who has had an unusual spring, to say the least, shot a 1-under 70 in the first round at Congressional Country Club on Thursday and reeled off 12 straight pars in one stretch.

After a winless and spotty spring that has included three scores of 79 or higher on two tours, his lone bogey Thursday came on the first hole.

"I'm pretty happy, very happy," McDowell said. "I drove the ball beautifully. You have to play from the fairway to have a chance."

For sure. A guy can't point toward the future if he can't see the road ahead.

"I have really enjoyed the past 12 months," he said. "But we do a lot of talking about the past in this game. I am looking forward to the weekend and what the future might hold."

Weekends have been spotty of late. He blew up in the third round of his title defense at the Wales Open last month, and skied to a 79 after claiming the 54-hole lead at the Players Championship.

After making a bogey on his opening hole, he snapped to attention, however.

"Sometimes a bogey can get your attention, slap you in the face early in the morning," he said. "I parred this place to death on the back nine."

With 54 more holes of that, he might be holding that same trophy overhead again on Sunday.

Category: Golf
Posted on: May 13, 2011 2:28 pm
Edited on: May 13, 2011 2:29 pm

Wild, woolly weekend ahead at Sawgrass

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla . -- We scribes here at CBSSports.com are forever in search of the latest trends, the things that move and shape the sports we cover, from the people to the rules, in an attempt to keep our readers up to date on the games they love.

Here's a hot one for you: Three guys with beards are in the top five at the Players Championship.

Make no mistake, beards are rare in golf, because it's a monochromatic, buttoned-down crowd, mostly. But thanks to guys like Lucas Glover, who won last week and looks as though he hasn't shaved since the onset of puberty, they are becoming more noticed of late.

Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan, also in the top five at TPC Sawgrass as of midday Friday, are also unshaven and ranked in the world top 20. The timing seems odds on all three counts, since summer temperatures are blazing already in the Southeast and beards aren't exactly cool in the summer months.

Mahan said his beard, which is sparce compared to the manicured fescue that Glover sprouted, isn't uncomfortable. So it's not a fair comparison, he said,

"I don't really feel it that much," Mahan said. "Yeah, [Glover] is in another category of woolly mammoth."
Category: Golf
Posted on: April 7, 2011 5:15 pm

McDowell plays hockey on icy Augusta greens

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Graeme McDowell, always an animated conversationalist, probably proved that he has a future in broadcasting when he was asked for a recitation of his opening round at the Masters on Thursday.

It was succinct, spot-on and there wasn't much need for elaboration from the reignng U.S. Open champion, really.

"Well, I three-putted 10, three-putted 13, three-putted 14, three-putted 15," McDowell said. "That was kind of my day summed up right there."

No kidding. McDowell, playing alongside Tiger Woods, finished with a 2-over 74 that leaves him in jeopardy of missing his second straight cut this spring.

On a course where putting is paramount, McDowell, who had rolled the ball beautifully most of the year, completely lost his touch on the curvy Augusta National greens. 

"I was in control of the ball pretty well," he said. "But when I threepputted 13, it knocked the stuffing out of me a little bit.  I made a few ragged swings coming in."

Northern Ireland countryman Rory McIlroy, who has been mentored by McDowell, shot 65 to take the early lead. McDowell knew he was missing a chance to light up the place.

"It's a hell of a score, don't get me wrong, but the pins were setup for scoring, the fairways are running quite slowly, which really helps around the greens, because the ball stays on the upslopes," McDowell said. "There's no doubt that that was on today. But you have to play great golf.

"You have to hole putts and you know if you got out of position it was a difficult golf course. But it was there for the taking today."

Instead of taking, he was mostly raking.

Category: Golf
Posted on: April 4, 2011 4:51 pm

Masters finish shouldn't be all wet

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Augusta National is usually the most mega-manicured course the world's best golfers play every year.

This time, the club put away the razor blades.

Several players reported after their practice rounds Monday that the runoff areas surrounding the greens were not as closely cropped as in year's past, prompting England Justin Rose to predict that more players would take on the back nine's two fateful par-5s in two as a result.

Balls that come up short won't be as likely to roll into the water fronting the 13th and 15th greens, he reasoned, or run as far away from flags on other holes. U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell second the notion and noted that the set up was "more generous" around the greens this time around.

Then again, McDowell also cautioned that what players saw on Monday might be lawnmower mulch by Thursday's first round. Meaning, all but plower under.

Sounds like he can rest easy, though. Fred Ridley, a longtime club official who runs the Masters competition committee, handles the course set-up. No sooner had Rose and McDowell noted the welcome development around the collars than did Ridley happen by on the way to the Augusta clubhouse.

"It's pretty much set up now the way it'll be Thursday through Sunday," he said when informed of player comments. "Yes, there's a little bit of a second cut there."

Rose also noted that there appeared to be more sand in the bottom of the tributary to Rae's Creek that cuts in front of the 13th. Rose predicted that players would attempt shots from the creekbed if second shots failed to clear the water or wedges spun too far backward.

"I am not aware of that, and if it's true, it's not because of anything we did,"' Ridley said. "That would just be a result of the water levels and whatever."

Either way, it has the makings of an interesting back nine on Sunday.
Category: Golf
Posted on: March 11, 2011 6:54 pm

McDowell takes honorable, but costly, route

DORAL, Fla. -- World No. 4 Graeme McDowell's attempts to get back in the hunt at the Cadillac Championship got another shot tougher a few minutes after his round ended.

McDowell spoke with a European Tour rules official who broke the news to the Northern Ireland that that another shot would be added to hit tally, giving him a 1-over 73 that dropped him eight shots off the lead and into a tie for 28th.

He brought it to the attention of officials himself.

"As I made my stroke to hit it, I was aware of the ball just starting to move," he said. "I was on a bit of a side slope, obviously some strong winds out there. And as I made my backstroke, the ball just ever so slightly just started to move."

He was unable to stop his stroke by then.

"It was kind of too late. I had made my transition, and I just continued on with the putt. And you know, [rules official] Andy McFee just showed me that in the decisions of golf there -- whether you stop or continue your stroke, the ball has moved from its original position, and I'm deemed to have moved that ball, so it's a one-shot penalty."

McDowell immediately turned to playing partner Phil Mickelson after hitting the putt and told Lefty that the ball had moved slightly. Nobody in the group knew whether McDowell would be subject to a penalty, so he asked as soon as he finished the round, to his credit.

"It was just kind of one of those niggling things," he said. "I figured I had to ask before I signed my scorecard. And I was surprised to see it was a one shot penalty, but it's just kind of one of those horrible rules of golf that catches us all out from time to time. 

"Just one of those things unfortunately. You know, got to get those doubts out of your mind."

McDowell has taken the honorable route before, and in the same geographic vicinity, too. Last year at the Honda Classic, McDowell was in contention in the second round when he added a shot to his total because he felt he had unwittingly grounded his club while hitting a shot from a water hazard, which isn't permitted.

Posted on: March 11, 2011 11:44 am

Warning: McDowell sees progress in Woods' game

DORAL, Fla. -- Graeme McDowell has had his nose to the glass over the past few months.

Indeed, it would be hard to find another player who is more qualified to render an opinion, iif not a verdict, on the state of Tiger Woods' game at the moment.

They were paired at the HSBC event last fall in China, at the Chevron Challenge in December and again this week at the Cadillac Championship. McDowell, world No. 4 and the defending U.S. Open champion, believes Woods is gradually starting to find his mojo.

"I can see the improvement," he said. "Sorry to say."

McDowell was cracking wise. Sort of.

He and playing partner Phil Mickelson, playing alongside Woods over the first two days at Doral, had a conversation on the 12th hole that was illuminating. Mickelson brought up Woods' once-dominant ways.

"Phil said, 'Thank god for all of us that he didn't keep playing like that, because it would have been tough for the rest of the world to win anything,'" McDowell said.

Woods and McDowell both shot 2-under 70 to finish the first round at T25, while Mickelson played his last three holes Friday morning in 3-over and shot 73.
Category: Golf
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